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Hacks - Bulletproof - Review: The Making of Sharks

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As the curtain falls on what many viewers and critics hail as "one of the best seasons of television," I can't help but gloat, having been a fan of Hacks since before it even aired, back when it was still considered a niche series. This classification likely stemmed from the fact that the main character is a woman in her 70s and there are no homicides happening nor are there doctors falling in love. There isn’t even a single alien in sight. Who could have possibly predicted Hacks would become a standout hit and exceed all expectations of the predominantly white and male industry?

In season three, Hacks reunites Deborah and Ava after they have not seen each other for an entire year. While both women remain true to their respective characters, it is evident they have grown significantly during their time apart. The viewers, along with Deborah and Ava, recognize that their positive development has been significantly shaped by their mutual influence. Even when they were apart, they were in each other’s heads; they have been since season one. This deep bond enables them to work seamlessly together - not just as writing partners but as friends, companions, and fellows in misery. Deborah opens up more than ever before, sharing her fears and allowing herself to be vulnerable around Ava. Several moments reveal the younger woman as an emotional pillar of support for Deborah, showcasing how much Ava has matured over the past year.

When Deborah shares the news that she is the new host of the Late Night Show, a goal she and Ava have worked towards all season, it becomes clear just how close the two women have become. Ava is beyond ecstatic for Deborah. While all the other characters are aware that landing the hosting gig is EVERYTHING to the comedian, Ava is likely the only one who knows the true reason behind its importance.


"Bulletproof" - HACKS, Pictured: Jean Smart amd Hannah Einbinder. MAX ©2024 MAX. All Rights Reserved

In the season finale, Deborah offers Ava the position of head writer for the Late Night Show, only to withdraw the offer again, claiming the network insists on keeping on the current head writer. Ava would only be second in line for now. The reasoning seems sound: With Deborah as the host, the network is already taking a significant risk, and replacing the head writer would be an additional gamble they are not willing to take. However, Ava soon discovers that Deborah is only bullshitting her. The network does not care who the head writer is; they have given the comedian full creative control. Deborah lied to her, something Ava should have anticipated but was still entirely unprepared for.

While Deborah has remained selfish and obsessed with her own success, her actions throughout the season have shown that she cares for Ava – probably more than she cares for anyone else, including her own daughter. She respects Ava, trusts her, she confides in her and relies on her. Deborah even insisted Ava pursue her own projects while working for her. And Ava naively believed this meant she was the exception to the rule, that Deborah would betray anyone without batting an eye but would draw the line with her. She thought Deborah would not throw her under the bus. But apparently, all their intimate, deep moments meant nothing. Ava has uprooted her entire life for Deborah, wrecking her relationship and quitting her job, trusting that Deborah would stay true to her word. Now, she is left once again with nothing.

Ava is livid. She confronts Deborah, accusing her of making decisions out of fear. She knows that Deborah is fully aware how well they work together; their relationship – however one may define it – makes them an unbeatable team. Deborah admits she needs Ava but isn't willing to take the risk of making her head writer. The show has to be bulletproof. It has to work. She has lost way too much for it not to.

“And you are okay with losing me too?” Ava asks.

Deborah shrugs, pretending not to care. “I’m willing to.”


"Bulletproof" - HACKS, Pictured: Hannah Einbinder and Jean Smart. Jake Giles Netter/MAX ©2024 MAX. All Rights Reserved

This hits Ava a thousand times harder than when the Deborah slapped her in season one. Deborah is very much aware how much she is hurting Ava, and perhaps her betrayal isn't solely because she sees Ava as a risk for the Late Night Show. It almost seems like she is deliberately pushing her away as they have simply become too close over the last few episodes. Their relationship is unusual, unique; it defies conventional descriptions. Their close bond has changed them both, making them better people. But Deborah cannot afford to let this go any further; she cannot afford to be soft or distracted. So, she pushes Ava away on both a professional and personal level.

The season finale concludes with Deborah arriving at the CBS studios for her first meeting with the Late Night producers and writers. Much to her relief, Ava is there. She was not sure the writer would actually show up after being demoted. What Deborah did not expect, however, is that Ava is not there to be “one of the writers”; she came to claim what should be hers. The young woman never wanted to be as egoistic and career-obsessed as Deborah; she never wanted to be a shark willing to do anything to get ahead. But that is what it takes to keep working with Deborah; that is what it takes to make sure that the Late Night Show will be the success it needs to be. Deborah’s fear of failure is standing in her way, clouding her view. So, Ava does what is necessary, she does what Deborah has taught her: Be ruthless.

Ava: “It would be really, really bad if people found out that you slept with the chairman of this company right before he gave you your own show… yeah… the optics of that are pretty rough. Especially since the show needs to be bulletproof, like you said. So, I think I am your head writer after all.”

Deborah: “You wouldn’t.”

Ava: “I would. Wouldn’t you?” Oh, Deborah absolutely would.


"Bulletproof" - HACKS, Pictured: Jean Smart amd Hannah Einbinder. MAX ©2024 MAX. All Rights Reserved

With no other choice, Deborah introduces Ava as her new head writer to the producers. They all sit at the conference table, Deborah and Ava facing each other from opposite ends, emphasizing their equal standing. The writer feels smug, while Deborah, having somewhat recovered from the unexpected blackmail, seems proud, intrigued, even turned on. Ava has become a shark, just like her.

The storyline between Deborah and Ava is so compelling, it’s almost easy to overlook the rest of the episode. The season finale also finds Kayla questioning her role as Jimmy’s assistant. This eventually leads to Jimmy realizing that, despite having been forced to hire her, he actually wants to work with Kayla. She may be a terrible assistant, but she has great ideas, and her unconventional methods helped Deborah land the Late Night gig. Jimmy proposes a business partnership, and Kayla agrees on the condition that she gets her own assistant.

We also witness Deborah reuniting with her sister Kathy (J. Smith-Cameron) once again. They visit their parents' gravesite, where Deborah's decision to take a work call sparks another argument about her selfishness. When Deborah reveals she had their parents' remains moved a long time ago without informing Kathy, the younger sibling decides she has had enough. Although Kathy walks away this time, it raises the question of whether driving her away was Deborah's subconscious intention. In the previous episode, Deborah mentioned wanting to forgive Kathy but feeling unable to do so. Now, with her focus on her Late Night Show, it seems easier for her to maintain a calm, drama-free, and essentially non-existent private life.

In the episode, we also learn that Marcus has decided to accept the job offer he received at the beginning of the season. He will be leaving Deborah. When Damian finds out, he breaks down, feeling utterly unprepared to handle things on his own. He doesn’t even pay his own taxes. How is he going to handle Deborah’s finances?

There is no doubt that all the performers in the episode contribute to its brilliance, but it is Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder who truly captivate the audience. Their extraordinary chemistry, enhanced by the excellent writing, draws viewers in and elevates the episode to a masterpiece.

There are countless aspects I adore about Hacks, but one of its most significant achievements is demonstrating to a wider audience that women in their seventies are not only fierce and powerful but also hot and desirable. They are much more than someone's mother or crazy aunt; they have full, rich lives and compelling stories of their own. While this narrative has appeared in some other shows, Hacks elevates it to a new level. This shift is long overdue, and it's high time the industry at large recognizes the multifaceted, dynamic potential and beauty of actresses in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond.

Let us know what you think about the season finale! Were you surprised by the way it ended? How do you think this will change Deborah and Ava’s dynamic? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

About the Author - Julia Krassnik
Writer and traveler from the country of Sound of Music looking for the meaning of life.
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